Ethiopia’s intransigence: What is the price of inaction?
By: Asgede Hagos
October 11, 2004

Ethiopia, which depends on the international community’s largess to feed millions of its own people, does not think the world will ever impose sanctions on her for its international lawlessness—for rejecting the April 13, 2002, final and binding ruling by the Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC).

Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin, in his address to the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly last week, said “the hope of getting the Security Council to impose sanctions on Ethiopia… unlikely to happen.” Why is he so sure that this will not happen?

The Addis Ababa correspondent of the British newspaper The Independent describes the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, as “the only government leader ever to reject” a ruling by the United Nations Boundary Commission.” Yet, the minority regime is so sure that Ethiopia will not face any consequences for this blatant violation of international law.

What does this say of the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement, who are supposed to ensure full implementation of the agreement? What does this say of the many United Nations Security Council resolutions, which urged full implementation of the ruling? The stakes are bigger than the two parties in this conflict.

But, it is clear what this says of the TPLF rulers now in control of Ethiopia--that they don’t have peace on their minds. Never had. Every time they got an opportunity to talk about the Algiers Agreement between the two nations, has been an opportunity to undermine the Boundary Commission’s ruling. Yet, the foreign minister in his address to the U.N. General Assembly last week went to extreme lengths to come off looking as a man who is desperate for peace. “Ethiopia is prepared to do whatever is humanly possibly for peace,” he said with a straight face, according to those who were present. “There is no greater priority for our country than ensuring peace in our country and stable and mutual beneficial relation with our neighbors.” Adding, he said, for the minority regime in Addis Ababa, there is “no greater priority…than ensuring peace”?

He then lifts his “peace mask” and reveals the real reason behind this extended protestations for peace. “That is precisely why we have reiterated that we are ready for dialogue with Eritrea with the view to finding a win-win outcome for the current stalemate faced by both countries.” Now it makes sense because “ensuring peace” sounded awfully uncharacteristic of the war-mongering clique that rules Ethiopia today. This is the scheme his regime concocted and sold to some in the West not to bring peace to the region but to undermine the only instrument that is out there that can ensure peace between the nations: the ruling by the Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC).

 In his attempt to explain why the peace process is where it is, he redefines the key issues of the conflict, creates his own reality and pushes his solution for the reality he created. “It has become difficult for Ethiopia and Eritrea to formally complete the peace process because of complications that have been created in connection with the implementation of some aspects of the decision of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC).” He then goes to explain what “some aspects” meant. He said the controversy involves only 15% of the 1,000-kilometers-long boundary between the two nations. But, he left out that it is this 15% of the boundary that triggered the war, which has claimed tens and tens of thousands of lives. The super spin he put on the EEBC ruling can only be described as “unbelievable.” The man who called for a full and speedy implementation of the ruling when it was issued in April 2002 now describes it as a mere “observation” and denies there is an enforcement component to the Algiers Agreement which led to the ruling two years later. The most amazing aspect of this is that the TPLF leaders say this without any sense of shame!

His solution: “An open-ended dialogue on all issues dividing Ethiopia and Eritrea, including on the boundary demarcation” as if there was no ruling to determine all the issues that divide the two nations. In other words, Ethiopia wants to scuttle the ruling, start all over and go back to square one until it gets the ruling it likes, or something similar or equivalent to it through what it euphemistically calls “a dialogue.”

The Ethiopian minority regime’s intentions have always been clear, at least to its neighbors, who have been victimized by its expansionist designs. It may be able to fool some people in the West, but it cannot fool Eritreans, Somalis, Ddjibutians, Kenyans and even the Sudanese, its relationship with the current genocidal regime in Khartoum not withstanding.

But, what does this say of the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement who witnessed the signing of the pact and pledged to ensure its implementation? This is no longer about Eritrea and Ethiopia. What is at stake is much bigger than the two nations. Why is poor Ethiopia so sure that the guarantors—the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the government of the United States—will not impose sanctions to force compliance by the intransigent party?

The responsibilities of the guarantors are clearly defined in the Agreement. In fact there is no room for anyone to interpret it any other way. “The OAU and the United Nations commit themselves to guarantee the respect for the commitment of the two parties until the determination of the common border.” The enforcement components of the Agreement also leave no room for doubt or room to play games with the delimitation decision. The steps the guarantors can take to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Agreement include “appropriate measures to be taken under chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by the Security Council.”

The price of inaction in this case, which is fraught with so many dangers, is too frightening to even contemplate—for the peoples of the two nations and the subregion in general; it will also greatly damage the conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms of the international system.